The cannabis industry’s environmental toll is massive and something many never really associate with such a “green” product. How can producing a few pounds of cannabis produce the same emissions as driving across the United States seven times? This problem poses many challenges to states that want to create sustainable cannabis programs.
Cannabis’s Carbon Footprint
Greenhouse gases absorb infrared radiation like chlorofluorocarbons and carbon dioxide that contribute to the greenhouse effect. The greenhouse effect causes the earth’s surface to be hotter than average, creating dangerous climate changes and global warming. Human activities contribute more than natural activities like animal and plant respiration. Common human activities include livestock farming, industrial processes, and now, cannabis production.
Of paramount concern for the cannabis industry is the energy expended through CO2 emissions that indoor cannabis production creates. While there are governmental- established solutions for other climate change problems, no real progress has been made that holds indoor grow operations responsible for their contributions to dangerous CO2 production. Yet the industry uses more energy than anyone else, per Boulder, Colorado’s sustainability coordinator, Ron Flax.
The state of Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs is proactively taking measures to reduce the cannabis market’s carbon footprint. They’re suggesting strict energy limits for grow operations. Tori Kim, the department’s general counsel, says that other state’s experiences show that energy usage of cannabis production is extremely high, especially those with large-scale, indoor cultivation businesses.
There are new technologies like high-pressure sodium bulbs and LED lights that use less energy and provide the same results. Some places now use battery storage, gas, and solar powered generators to produce light that cuts energy costs by up to 35 percent. One startup company, GrowX created a prototype for an energy efficient aeroponic system with a mesh growing medium, lights, and sensors. It uses both less water and electricity than hydroponic operations.
It’s essential to our ecosystem that we find solutions to energy problems impacting the greenhouse effect. It may still take time, but at least the cannabis industry acknowledges the problem and is taking active measures to solve greenhouse emission pollution issues.